Current Issues Articles
'War on Terrorism' for Dummies"
By Bernard Weiner
t r u t h o u t | March 2, 2002
Don't know about you, but all this war and politics stuff can be mighty confusing. So I picked up a copy of "The 'War on Terrorism' for Dummies," a kind of primer on current events, and now feel much better-educated. Here are some of their answers.
Q. Is this all about oil and greed and profits?
A. Not all. Life is complex. Politics is even more complex. (Not as complex as marriages, but close.) The Persian Gulf historically has been a shaky area politically. The developed world has to find another, more stable area to service its oil needs. The next large commercial oil reserve is in the Caspian Sea area of Central Asia, but how to bring that oil and gas to market without having to go through Russia? Obviously, a more southern route. True, oil and gas companies had plans for a pipeline through Afghanistan long before the year 2001, but they put their plans on hold while the political situation there was so chaotic. When the authoritarian Taliban finally brought order to the country, the U.S. government began talks with the Taliban leadership -- some of those talks were in
Texas -- about that old pipeline idea. Eventually, the Taliban said no, whether because the money offered wasn't enough or out of ideological reasons isn't clear. Then the terror of 9/11 happened and the bombing of Afghanistan began. The Taliban were removed from power, a new government installed, and now talks are progressing on the joint Pakistan/Afghanistan pipeline, to handle the Caspian Sea oil from the former Soviet "stan" republics.
Now the above facts might seem to suggest that the true answer to the question posed above is Yes. But, as we said, things are often much more complex than they seem to
be on the surface. We can't forget that the U.S. mainland was attacked in a most vicious way -- nearly 3000 people lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and another plane was on its way to a populated target before it crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania. Any American leader, beholden to oil companies or not, would have had to respond to protect American citizens and property. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network have made it very clear that they are not finished, and that there is no such animal as an"innocent civilian." American "infidels" must die, period. The nation responded by going on the offense in rooting out as many terror
ists as possible, and disabling their financing and operational network.
So, yes, access to cheap oil and gas is one, maybe even THE major, ingredient in the mix of why the U.S. is behaving the way it is -- as it certainly was in the Persian Gulf war under Poppa Bush -- but greed and profit are not the ONLY reasons.
Q. Did the Bush Administration know about or participate in any way with the events leading to the terrorist attacks on 9/11?
A. All the facts are not yet in. At this point, it appears that the Bush Administration knew that a major attack of some sort was going to happen -- for months prior to 9/11, Osama had been telling his supporters that "something big" was planned against America, probably in America -- but the U.S. probably didn't have specific intelligence as to what that meant. There are conspiracy theorists around who question why Air Force fighters weren't scrambled in time to shoot down the suicide jet-bombers, why the CIA chief in Dubai may have met with bin Laden in July, why many institutional investors bought "put options" (gambling that the stock would go down) on airline stocks before 9/11, and so on. And perhaps more information about these and other questions will be revealed in time, as more investigative digging unearths more facts, but right now what's out there is mostly conjecture and circumstantial evidence, devoid of smoking guns. At the time of the 9/11 terrorist mass-murders, it's likely that chaos and ill-preparedness and the usual bureaucratic bungling and incompetency prevailed.
Now, having said all that, one must note that the events of 9/11 arrived at just the right time for the beleagured Bush Administration. Its conservative agenda was bogged down in Congress because the Senate was now controlled by the Democrats, Bush was taking great heat (and was the butt of stand-up comedians) for being an ineffectual dolt, and so on. Suddenly, bin Laden hands Bush the gift of terrorism on American <BR>
soil, and, lo and behold, he is a different man, the public is solidly behind his responses to terrorism, the Democrats are cowed into silence, the conservative agenda is back on track.
True, the Bush administration has played the "patriotism" and "national security" cards to rationalize whatever policies and bills it wants passed. But that only reveals how cynical and manipulative they are, not that they were necessarily involved in a mass-murder conspiracy with Islamic extremists. (But why has Dick Cheney warned Congressional leaders not to delve too deeply into pre-9/11 events? Hmm.)
Q. Is John Ashcroft a proto-fascist?
A. Yes. If he were an official in the Taliban, he'd feel quite at home.
But before going into his record, let us remember that Ashcroft was chosen by Bush. Ashcroft is the lightning rod taking the heat, but it's the Bush Administration that creates and approves his policies. Now to Ashcroft:
You may remember that after he lost his Senate re-election bid to a dead man, his appointment to be Attorney General made it through the Senate with one vote to spare. He was villified as a narrow-minded supporter of racist organizations, a hard-line, uptight, puritanical theocrat who would force his right-wing agenda on the country. Ashcroft swore he would do no such thing. He lied. The events of 9/11 gave him the opportunity to fly his far-right, draconian agenda under the political radar by couching everything under the rubrics of "national security" and "homeland defense." He has shredded the U.S. Constitution -- on everything from vitiating attorney-client confidentiality to permitting phone taps and black-bag jobs and computer privacy violations -- and has made it virtually impossible for the press and ordinary citizens to find out what's going on under the Freedom of Information Act. (In addition, Ashcroft has reversed his states'-rights philosophy and is trying to overturn the "death with dignity" act voted in to law by Oregon citizens and medical-marijuana laws voted into law by citizens of a number of states.) It's not just his puritanically spending public monies to clothe naked statues; this guy is bad news for the Constitution.
Q. What is Enron all about, and why should ordinary citizens care?
A. Enron is reflective of Reagan/Bush-era corporate greed, and the
public be damned. It's very common these days for large, high-priced auditing firms to be in bed with those they supposedly are auditing. Enron was all about making money for the firm's executives and directors -- including huge sums made from multitudinous military contracts. Enron covered its ass not only by its alignment with shoddy auditing firms but by buying political influence; millions of dollars were given to political officeholders, three-fourths of them Republican. Kenneth Lay, the CEO of Enron, for years favored Bush with his largesse, in Texas and in Washington, D.C., and got all kinds of favors in return, including deregulation (read: letting corporations do whatever they want, devoid of much oversight) and letting Lay pick those who would oversee his industry. The Bush Administration is like an Enron alumni reunion, with the officials in charge of investigating Enron formerly working for Enron. There may even be Enron tie-ins to the Afghanistan pipeline plan. Bush himself pretends that he barely knows Mr. Lay. It's all rather nauseating, especially when you realize there are a lot of undiscovered Enrons out there. <
Q. Will Bush be impeached?
A. Whoa! Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Impeachment (or resignation) certainly is a possibility down the road, as this influence-peddling scandal unwinds and deepens. But Bush isn't going to get cornered easily. He's bobbing and weaving pretty good, trying to keep the public convinced that Enron is only a business scandal and doesn't involve him or his administration at all; but it seems clear (and most Americans agree in recent polls) that Bush is hiding something that could prove a major political embarrassment for him and his Administration. To that end, he's trying to keep all documents relating to Enron locked up tight in the White House. Congress may subpoena documents and back up their demands by taking the Administration to court -- as the Government Accounting Office, the non-partisan investigatory arm of the Congress, is doing -- and he'll drag that out as long as possible, hoping that the case might take years to get to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, he's counting on his conservative majority -- the one that installed him in office -- coming through again to save him. The key fight here, which is just beginning, is whether an Independent Counsel, one with no ties to Enron and not beholden to the Bush Administration, will be appointed to investigate. The Democrats are starting to call for a special prosecutor, and the Bush Administration is digging in its heels mightily, saying that the Justice Department (the same department loaded with former Enron employees and consultants) can handle the job quite well, thank you very much, you're either with us or with the forces of evil.
Q. Why are the Democrats acting so cowardly in confronting Bush's domestic and foreign policies?
A. Leaving aside the fact that many Democrats -- coming from the same corporate-culture mentality -- agree with Bush on many things, including the advisability of the "war on terrorism," a great many feel they can't risk being anything other than a Loyal Opposition while the country is "at war." (There has been no Declaration of War by the Congress, and Bush is not about to ask for one, since doing so would imply th<BR>
at the Legislative Branch should share power with the Executive. The Bush Administration wants to share power with no one, in or out of the country.) The Democrats feel they would be branded "unpatriotic," or "soft on terrorism," and not get re-elected, and, understandably, that they would not be able effectively to battle Bush's non-war-related policies, such as on drugs-for-seniors or Medicare reform or education or whatever. So they're doing a kind of soft-shoe shuffle in place while waiting to see if and when the climate of the electorate begins to shift away from automatic support for Bush. Since this is just now starting to happen, you can expect to see the Democrats become a bit bolder. Perhaps as more and more American troops become engaged in more and more countries, and more body bags begin coming back to this country, and the draft is re-instituted, the Democrats will come out of their shells and assert a more courageous attitude. But ordinary citizens probably will have to lead them once again.
Q. Is there any possibility that the Bush Administration will attempt to alter U.S. policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, so that more terrorists don't grow out of the soil of mass poverty, lack of hope, dictatorial regimes and Western slights to their religion?
A. No. There is not the slightest indication that the Bush Adminstration gives a fig for making any changes. It's the world's only superpower, so it thinks it can do whatever it wants. Military power and threats are expected to keep recalictrant countries in line. If changes were made in U.S. policy and terrorism began to recede, the necessary objective conditions for keeping Bush in power and the country in a state of insecure fright, would begin to deteriorate. So don't hold your breath that the situation will improve until Bush and those supporting him are removed from office.
Q. Are you really part of the "Dummies" publishing empire?
A. No. And you're not dummies either. Organize, agitate, educate -- and defeat Republican candidates in November, thus ensuring (if the Senate and House are both once again in Democrat party hands) that Bush's hard-right agenda goes nowhere for two years. During that time -- assuming Bush hasn't been impeached or resigned by then -- we all build the electoral foundation for his removal from office in 2004.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American politics and international relations at Western Washington University and San Diego State University. He was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years.
The Troubling New Face of America
By Jimmy Carter
September 5, 2002
Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except, at times, within the administration). Some new approaches have understandably evolved from quick and well-advised reactions by President Bush to the tragedy of Sept. 11, but others seem to be developing from a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.
Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel. This policy has been condemned by the federal courts, but the Justice Department seems adamant, and the issue is still in doubt. Several hundred captured Taliban soldiers remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay under the same circumstances, with the defense secretary declaring that they would not be released even if they were someday tried and found to be innocent. These actions are similar to those of abusive regimes that historically have been condemned by American presidents.
While the president has reserved judgment, the American people are inundated almost daily with claims from the vice president and other top officials that we face a devastating threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and with pledges to remove Saddam Hussein from office, with or without support from any allies. As has been emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and by responsible leaders of former administrations and incumbent officeholders, there is no current danger to the United States from Baghdad. In the face of intense monitoring and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by Hussein against a neighbor, even the smallest nuclear test (necessary before weapons construction), a tangible threat to use a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing this technology with terrorist organizations would be suicidal. But it is quite possible that such weapons would be used against Israel or our forces in response to an American attack.
We cannot ignore the development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, but a unilateral war with Iraq is not the answer. There is an urgent need for U.N. action to force unrestricted inspections in Iraq. But perhaps deliberately so, this has become less likely as we alienate our necessary allies. Apparently disagreeing with the president and secretary of state, in fact, the vice president has now discounted this goal as a desirable option.
We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously negotiated international accords.
Peremptory rejections of nuclear arms agreements, the biological weapons convention, environmental protection, anti-torture proposals, and punishment of war criminals have sometimes been combined with economic threats against those who might disagree with us. These unilateral acts and assertions increasingly isolate the United States from the very nations needed to join in combating terrorism.
Tragically, our government is abandoning any sponsorship of substantive negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli action in the occupied territories and to condemn and isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian enclaves shrink. There still seems to be a struggle within the administration over defining a comprehensible Middle East policy. The president's clear commitments to honor key U.N. resolutions and to support the establishment of a Palestinian state have been substantially negated by statements of the defense secretary that in his lifetime "there will be some sort of an entity that will be established" and his reference to the "so-called occupation." This indicates a radical departure from policies of every administration since 1967, always based on the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories and a genuine peace between Israelis and their neighbors.
Belligerent and divisive voices now seem to be dominant in Washington, but they do not yet reflect final decisions of the president, Congress or the courts. It is crucial that the historical and well-founded American commitments prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment and international cooperation.
NO War on the World
NO Detentions & Round-ups
NO Police State Restrictions
The Not in Our Name Project was initiated at a meeting in New York City, on March 23, 2002. The meeting was called for by a letter, see below, that proposed ways to strengthen and expand resistance to the U.S. government's course in the wake of September 11, 2001.
The meeting adopted the proposal - and the Not in Our Name Project was born.
The Pledge of Resistance subsequently was written and then distributed at anti-war actions on April 20, 2002, along with a Call to take up the Not in Our Name Project.
What is MoveOn all about?
MoveOn is working to bring ordinary people back into politics. With a system that today revolves around big money and big media, most citizens are left out. When it becomes clear that our "representatives" don't represent the public, the foundations of democracy are in peril. MoveOn is a catalyst for a new kind of grassroots involvement, supporting busy but concerned citizens in finding their political voice. Our nationwide network of more than 600,000 online activists is one of the most effective and responsive outlets for democratic participation available today.
What does MoveOn do?
When there is a disconnect between broad public opinion and legislative action, MoveOn builds electronic advocacy groups. Examples of such issues are campaign finance, environmental and energy issues, impeachment, gun safety, and nuclear disarmament. Once a group is assembled, MoveOn provides information and tools to help each individual have the greatest possible impact. During impeachment, MoveOn's grassroots advocates generated more than 250,000 phone calls and a million emails to Congress. We helped Congress come to understand the depth of public opposition to impeachment.
Michael Moore speaks loud and clear against the war at the 75th Academy Awards ceremony!!!!
"Accompanied on stage by his fellow documentary nominees, Moore, who won best documentary feature for "Bowling for Columbine," wasted no time in lighting into President Bush, the 2000 election and the war in Iraq.
"I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on stage with us here in solidarity with me," he said, "because we like non-fiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man who's sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts. ... We have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you."
Moore expanded on his comments with the press backstage.
"I'm an American," he said. "You don't leave your citizenship behind when you enter the doors of the Kodak Theatre." He added that expressing opinions is "what I do. I do that in my filmmaking."
Asked what he thought of the catcalls, he said, "Don't report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed."
There was some protest activity outside the theater Sunday. Reuters reported a group of about 50 protesters at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine held signs saying, "One more American for peace" and "Bring U.S. soldiers home."
Monday March 24, 2003
As predicted, the ceremony itself was a sober and edgy affair, occasionally sparked into uneasy life by anti-war protests. Collecting an Oscar for his documentary, Bowling For Columbine, film-maker Michael Moore used his speech to angrily lambast George Bush's policy on Iraq. His heated attack drew a mixture of boos and applause from the gathered throng.
"LE PAPE EST CONTRE VOUS"
Vint alors la "vedette" de cette cérémonie, Michael Moore, Oscar du meilleur documentaire pour Bowling for Columbine. Il n'a pas mâché ses mots. "Nous aimons documenter la réalité, mais nous vivons une époque fictive, avec des élections fictives, et un homme qui nous envoie à la guerre pour des raisons fictives ", a-t-il lancé, son Oscar à la main, sous un mélange nourri d'applaudissements et de sifflets. "Nous sommes contre cette guerre, monsieur Bush ! Honte à vous ! Le pape est contre vous, vous êtes fini." Au bout des 45 secondes réglementaires, l'orchestre a couvert Michael Moore.
A peine descendu de scène, Michael Moore a justifié devant la presse sa "sortie" contre celui qu'il appelle le "squatter" de la Maison Blanche. "Je suis un Américain, et on n'abandonne pas sa nationalité lorsque l'on pousse la porte du Théâtre Kodak, a expliqué le cinéaste. Ce qui est magnifique dans ce pays, c'est que vous pouvez y dire ce que vous pensez." "Agiter la menace que Saddam Hussein va vous tuer ou me tuer ce soir, c'est ça la fiction. La réalité, c'est qu'ils -les Irakiens- disposent des deuxièmes réserves mondiales de pétrole", a encore dénoncé Michael Moore.
Au-delà de sa diatribe anti-Bush, le cinéaste s'est félicité de voir Hollywood "se lever et applaudir" son film, "qui parle de la façon dont nous sommes manipulés par la peur qui est agitée par la Maison Blanche ou par l'Amérique des grandes entreprises pour créer une culture de la violence, sur le territoire des Etats-Unis comme à l'étranger".
Le spectacle pouvait reprendre. Julie Andrews a eu droit à une standing ovation, tout comme Olivia De Havilland, royale en bleu à 86 ans, venue de Paris, ainsi que Peter O'Toole, qui recevait un Oscar d'honneur.
Samedi 22 mars, sur la plage de Santa Monica, la guerre en Irak était dans tous les esprits. Les indépendants remettaient leurs prix (les Independent Spirit Awards) à Far from Heaven (Loin du paradis) (meilleur film, meilleur réalisateur, meilleur rôle principal, meilleur second rôle). Bowling for Columbine était consacré meilleur documentaire, et Michael Moore commentait : "La leçon donnée cette semaine aux enfants de Columbine est que la violence est un moyen acceptable de résolution d'un conflit." Il ajoutait : "Si on a contre soi le pape et les Dixie Chicks, on ne peut pas faire long feu à la Maison Blanche."
Claudine Mulard (avec AFP)
Michael Moore profite de son Oscar pour crier «honte à vous, M. Bush»
Le cinéaste américain Michael Moore, récompensé dimanche de l'Oscar du meilleur documentaire, a profité de cette tribune inespérée pour dénoncer la guerre en Irak sous les huées d'une partie du tout-Hollywood. Et il a traité le président américain de «squatter» de la Maison Blanche.
«Honte à vous, Monsieur Bush. Honte à vous !» Monté sur scène sous les appaudissements d'une salle debout, le réalisateur, récompensé pour «Bowling for Columbine», a très vite transformé la traditionnelle séance de remerciements des lauréats en une violente diatribe contre le président George W. Bush.
Nous vivons à une époque où nous avons eu des résultats électoraux fictifs, a poursuivi Michael Moore, en référence à l'élection controversée de George W. Bush fin 2000. Nous vivons à une époque où un homme nous a envoyés à la guerre pour des raisons fictives». «Nous sommes contre cette guerre, Monsieur Bush. Honte à vous, Monsieur Bush. Honte à vous! Le pape est contre vous, vous êtes fini, a conclu sous les sifflets d'une partie de l'assistance du Théâtre Kodak le cinéaste américain, célèbre pour ses positions antimondialisation.
A peine descendu de scène, Michael Moore a justifié devant la presse sa «sortie» contre celui qu'il a appelé le «squatter» de la Maison Blanche. Je suis un Américain et on n'abandonne pas sa nationalité lorsque l'on pousse la porte du Théâtre Kodak, a expliqué le cinéaste. Ce qui est magnifique dans ce pays, c'est que vous pouvez y dire ce que vous pensez. Agiter la menace que Saddam Hussein va vous tuer ou me tuer ce soir, c'est ça la fiction. La réalité, c'est parce qu'ils (les Irakiens) disposent des deuxièmes réserves mondiales de pétrole.
Au-delà de sa diatribe anti-Bush, le cinéaste s'est félicité de voir Hollywood «se lever et applaudir» son film qui parle de la façon dont nous sommes manipulés par la peur qui est agitée par la Maison Blanche ou par l'Amérique des grandes entreprises, pour créer une culture de la violence, sur le territoire des Etats-Unis comme à l'étranger.
Habitué de la provocation, Michael Moore s'était déjà fait remarquer en février lors de la cérémonie des Césars du cinéma français, où il avait été récompensé du César du meilleur film étranger. Il avait alors remercié la France pour son opposition au recours à la force dans la crise irakienne. La meilleure définition d'un allié ou d'un ami est ce que vous dit cet ami ou cet allié si vous commettez une erreur. Merci de nous avoir montré la voie, avait-il lancé sous les applaudissements.
Le film «Bowling for Columbine», qui dénonce la culture des armes aux Etats-Unis, a également obtenu le prix du 55e anniversaire du dernier festival de Cannes.